So, if moving ships and bombers around on a map were the full extent of U.S. plans to apply “maximum pressure” to North Korea, then U.S. policy might struggle to achieve its aims, but it would be no more dangerous than usual. In the context of this distorted formula, however, there are two interrelated differences that give reason to worry. First, the most direct reason that past crises with North Korea have not bubbled over into war was American restraint. The historical record of U.S.-North Korea relations reveals the surprising extent to which North Korea was poised to automatically retaliate and escalate in response to U.S. uses of force that never took place. Second, numerous administration sources have conveyed that the Trump administration is willing to launch preventive strikes in response to unspecified North Korean provocations, potentially even in response to non-violent actions like nuclear testing. This would be unprecedented. The United States has almost never threatened offensive action against North Korea; retaliatory action in response to violence sure, but never threatening to draw first blood. As crazy as such a move sounds, it would be consistent with a more offensive theory of victory that believes it necessary to do something more than uphold defense commitments. As I outline below, the preventive use of force— which is logically justifiable when signaling is mistakenly believed to be a cause of deterrence — clashes rather explosively with North Korea’s own theory of victory.
Article source link :